My friend and colleage Richard mentioned The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster to us recently. It’s a startlingly insightful short story describing a dystopic future in which all of humanity is tended to, and communicates through, one giant Machine. In its 12,000-word span it touches on a number of topics of contemporary relevance, such as dependence upon electronic communication and technology in general, the significance of direct experience (vs. second- or nth-hand accounts), the malleability of history and “fact”, religion as a psychological self-defense mechanism, and even obesity. The most startling thing is that it was written in 1909, decades before even the television was invented.
You can read it online here.